As a relief from discussing the sad state of the “science” of economics, and as a mental stimulus, I sometimes like to speculate about the seemingly unanswerable.
This is one of those times.
I hope you enjoy that sort of contemplation.
Here are samples from several articles that at first may seem disparate, but actually lead to an interesting possible conclusion: The universe thinks. From COSMOS:
Artificial Intelligence (AI) machines can be trained to solve puzzles on their own, by learning to recognize rules and patterns in data, rather than by simply following the rules humans program into them.
But often, researchers don’t know what rules the AI have made for themselves.
Peter Koo, an assistant professor at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Long Island, US, has developed a new method – described today in PLOS Computational Biology – that quizzes an AI to figure out what rules it has learned on its own, and whether they’re the right ones.
“If you learn general rules about the math instead of memorizing the equations, you know how to solve those equations.
So rather than just memorizing those equations, we hope that these models are learning to solve it and now we can give it any equation and it will solve it,” says Koo. Koo has developed an AI called a deep neural network (DNN), that looks for patterns in strands of RNA that increase the ability of a protein to bind to them.
Koo’s DNN, called Residual Bind (RB), has been trained with thousands of RNA sequences matched to protein binding scores, and is able to predict scores for new RNA sequences.
As you read further, I ask you to give your thoughts to the word, “network.”
It is fundamental to the process we call “thinking.” “Network,” “web,” “interchange,” “connection,” “entanglement” — they are words used to describe the complex communication system of a brain. From The Guardian:
‘It was like intercepting a covert conversation over the airwaves that could change the course of history,’ says Suzanne Simard.
When Suzanne Simard made her extraordinary discovery – that trees could communicate and cooperate through subterranean networks of fungi – the scientific establishment underreacted.
Even though her doctoral research was published in the Nature journal in 1997 – a coup for any scientist – the finding that trees are more altruistic than competitive was dismissed by many as if it were the delusion of an anthropomorphising hippy.
Her moment has come: research into forest ecosystems and mycorrhizal networks (those built of connections between plants and fungi) is now mainstream and there is a hunger for books related to the subject: Peter Wohlleben’s The Hidden Life of Trees and Merlin Sheldrake’s Entangled Life – about the hidden life of fungi – extend her thinking about the “woodwide web.”
One of Simard’s most thrilling beliefs is that trees can recognize us. “Trees perceive many things.
They know when they’re infected and have an instantaneous biochemical response. When we manipulate trees, they respond.”
“Trees don’t have a brain, but the network in the soil is a neural network and the chemicals that move through it are the same as our neural transmitters.”
She is currently collaborating on research to see whether trees can distinguish us as humans.
A communication network can be composed of any form of communication connection, not just wires. From Mental Floss:
By Shaunacy Ferro
Plants can’t run away, so they have to develop other strategies to stay alive, as James Cahill, an environmental plant ecologist at the University of Alberta, explains in “What Plants Talk About,” a documentary from the PBS show NATURE.
They’ve evolved the use of chemicals to communicate with insects and each other in order to thrive.
1. Plants can call for help When you inhale the sweet smell of freshly mown grass or cut flowers, what you’re actually smelling is the plant’s distress call.
“The scent attracts insects that will eat the pests currently munching on their plant-bodies.
“For instance, the wild tobacco plant can identify a hornworm caterpillar by its saliva.
When attacked by this caterpillar, the tobacco plant emits a chemical signal that appeals to the insect’s enemies.
“Within hours, caterpillar predators like the big-eyed bug show up, ideally driving the pest away.”
2. Plants can eavesdrop Plants sometimes respond to another plant’s SOS cry by ramping up their own defenses.
When wounded by a hornworm, sagebrush releases defensive proteins called trypsin proteinase inhibitors (TPIs), which prevent the insect from digesting protein and stunt its growth.
Wild tobacco begins prepping to make these TPIs when it senses a distress call from sagebrush, giving it a head start on defending itself.
3. Plants can defend their territory The invasive knapweed plant has roots that release certain chemicals that kill off native grass competitors.
Some plants, however, have formed a defense. Lupin roots secrete oxalic acid, which forms a protective barrier against the toxic chemicals given off by knapweed.
Lupin can even protect other plants in its vicinity.
4. Plants can recognize their siblings In an experiment with sea rocket, a plant that often grows close together with its siblings, plants that were grown in pots with relatives had more restrained root growth than plants grown with random strangers.
The plants in the stranger condition grew more roots in order to better compete for food, whereas the sibling plants were more considerate of each other’s needs.
Further experiments showed that sibling plants recognize each other via chemical signals.
5. Plants can communicate with mammals Plants go out of their way to attract more than just insects.
A carnivorous pitcher plant native to Borneo has evolved to hijack bat communication systems, turning the bats’ echolocation to its advantage.
Nepenthes hemsleyan has a concave structure that is specially suited to reflect bat echolocation, helping the bats find the plant.
The bats roost in the pitcher plant, and provide important nutrients by way of the bat guano that gets distributed in the soil nearby.
At this point, you might object that we merely are talking about mindless chemistry — no intent or thinking involved.
The plants don’t intend to communicate, but rather the communication is a natural accident of the trial-and-error process we call “evolution.”
I suggest that intent is irrelevant. We do not intend for our brain to operate the way it does, and all thinking could be described as “mindless chemistry.”
Nor are all our communications intended. A facial blush, a frown, a narrowing of eyes — the list goes on — all communicate without thought.
Rather, the point is that a melding of complexity and communication to some end are exactly the features of a brain.
Plants are said not to have brains, but their complex communications function like brains, and the results resemble thought.
You might object, “What about awareness? Isn’t thinking something more than mere chemical or physical reactions?
Doesn’t thinking require at least some minimal form of awareness?”
Wikipedia: Awareness: The ability to directly know and to perceive, to feel, or to be cognizant of events.
After all, a rock in a river communicates with the river by diverting the stream, but one would have difficulty claiming the rock is thinking about the river or the river about the rock.
I suggest that everything we call “thinking” involves some sort of neural network.
The rock in the river does not constitute a neural network, and intuitively, existence of such a network might be the dividing line between thinking and mere physical reaction. From Treehugger:
A Spider’s Web Is Part of Its Mind, New Research Suggests By Bryan Nelson, February 18, 2020
Spiders, it turns out, appear to possess an extraordinary form of consciousness that we’re only beginning to understand, and it has to do with their webs, reports New Scientist.
Researchers are slowly coming around to the idea that spider webbing is an essential part of these creatures’ cognitive apparatus.
The animals don’t just use their webs to sense with; they use them to think.
Scientists are discovering that some spiders possess cognitive abilities rivaling those of mammals and birds, including foresight and planning, complex learning, and even the capacity to be surprised.
The crux of these newly discovered cognitive abilities of spiders comes down to their webs. We’re finding that if you take away a spider’s webbing, it loses some of these capabilities.
We now also know that spiders can even distinguish between different types of (web) vibrations.
They know which vibrations are caused by different types of critters, by leaves and other debris brushing past, and even vibrations caused by the wind.
What’s really surprising, however, is what we’re now learning about how spiders use their webbing to actually think through problems.
When a spider sits at the hub of its web, it isn’t just passively waiting for vibrations. It is actively tugging and loosening different strands, manipulating the web in subtle ways.
Research has shown that these manipulations are how to tell where a spider is paying attention. When it tenses one strand of webbing, that strand becomes more sensitive to vibrations.
It’s essentially the equivalent of a spider cupping its ears to hear better in a certain direction. “She tenses the threads of the web so that she can filter information that is coming to her brain,” explained extended cognition researcher Hilton Japyassú, in a report by Quanta Magazine.
“This is almost the same thing as if she was filtering things in her own brain.”
Furthermore, researchers have tested this hypothesis with experiments that involve cutting out pieces of webbing.
When its web gets cut, a spider starts to make different decisions. According to Japyassú, it’s as if the already-built portions of silk are reminders, or chunks of external memory.
Cutting the web is like performing a spider lobotomy.
Spiders both passively receive information from their webbing, and actively manipulate that information by making adjustments.
The brain analogy has to do not only with the web-like appearance, but the information communications running through the web tendrils.
And the web not only provides pathways for communication; the web construction promotes synergy. From Big Think:
Composed of massive filaments of galaxies separated by giant voids, the cosmic web is the name astronomers give to the structure of our universe.
Why does our universe have this peculiar, web-like structure?
The answer lies in processes that took place in the first few hundred thousands years after the Big Bang.
The cosmic web is composed of interconnecting filaments of clustered galaxies and gases stretched out across the universe and separated by giant voids.
Because matter attracts matter through gravity, these discrepancies explain why matter clumped together in some places and not others.
But this doesn’t fully explain the structure of the cosmic web. After the inflationary period (roughly, 10-32 seconds after the Big Bang), the universe was full of primordial plasma clumping together.
As this matter clumped together, it created pressure that counteracted gravity, creating ripples akin to a sound wave in the matter of the universe.
These ripples are the product of regular matter and dark matter.
Information was transmitted along the filaments via gravity, physical pressure, magnetism, chemistry, light, and electric charge — in many ways similar to a brain.
Brains, human and otherwise, are convoluted webs, and that web structure is the secret of their abilities.
Brains function because their many trillions of parts send, receive, and store information, coming from within the carrier body, coming from without, and coming from self-created changes, chemically and electronically.
Scientists suggest that some of the brain’s amazing power comes from functioning at the quantum level.
By digging out signals hidden within the brain’s electrical chatter, scientists are getting new insights into sleep, aging and more., By Elizabeth Landau
Janna Lendner is one of a growing number of neuroscientists energized by the idea that noise in the brain’s electrical activity could hold new clues to its inner workings.
The patterns that Lendner, neuroscientist Bradley Voytek and others look for are related to a phenomenon that scientists started noticing in complex systems throughout the natural world and technology in 1925.
The statistical structure crops up mysteriously in so many different contexts that some scientists even think it represents an undiscovered law of nature.
Our bodies groove to the familiar rhythms of heartbeats and breaths — persistent cycles essential to survival.
But there are equally vital drumbeats in the brain that don’t seem to have a pattern, and they may contain new clues to the underpinnings of behavior and cognition.
Consider the brain as a web of massive, complex, chemical and electronic communication among its trillions of parts.
The communications come both in cycles and in signals that don’t seem to have a pattern. In brains, size matters.
On balance, bigger brains yield more — and more complex — communication, which yields more complex thought.
And all this — size, complexity, communication, cycles, electronic noise — describes the universe.
Every cubic inch of space receives communication from every star in the universe. Float in space with a good enough telescope, and you will see every star.
You will sense trillions of photons and neutrinos every second, plus whisps of gravity and magnetism that sufficiently effective sensors could detect at vast distances.
Thus, every one of the many trillions of stars “senses” what every other trillions of other stars are doing.
The information flow approaches infinity. According to physicists, information never is lost. It continues forever.
What does the universe do with its infinite trove of knowledge?
Examine an individual brain and you do not see the consciousness, awareness, purpose, or emotion. These all are imputed from outside.
You see only the physical web structure. And that is all we see today when we examine the universe.
Is it possible that the universe, with its vast web, the context of which our brains cannot imagine, does nothing with its unimaginably huge information flow? Infinite information created, then totally wasted?
All brains have one commonality: From the tree-root, flower aroma “brains,” to spider webs, to the remarkable brains of humans, no brain is a purposeless, stand-alone object. All brains function for a purpose.
And if, in fact, the entire universe is an infinite brain with infinite communication and infinite information, that leaves us with one obvious question.
What is the purpose of the universe?
Rodger Malcolm Mitchell [ Monetary Sovereignty, Twitter: @rodgermitchell, Search: #monetarysovereignty Facebook: Rodger Malcolm Mitchell ]
THE SOLE PURPOSE OF GOVERNMENT IS TO IMPROVE AND PROTECT THE LIVES OF THE PEOPLE. The most important problems in economics involve:
- Monetary Sovereignty describes money creation and destruction.
- Gap Psychology describes the common desire to distance oneself from those “below” in any socio-economic ranking, and to come nearer those “above.” The socio-economic distance is referred to as “The Gap.”
Wide Gaps negatively affect poverty, health and longevity, education, housing, law and crime, war, leadership, ownership, bigotry, supply and demand, taxation, GDP, international relations, scientific advancement, the environment, human motivation and well-being, and virtually every other issue in economics. Implementation of Monetary Sovereignty and The Ten Steps To Prosperity can grow the economy and narrow the Gaps: Ten Steps To Prosperity:
- Eliminate FICA
- Federally funded Medicare — parts A, B & D, plus long-term care — for everyone
- Social Security for all
- Free education (including post-grad) for everyone
- Salary for attending school
- Eliminate federal taxes on business
- Increase the standard income tax deduction, annually.
- Tax the very rich (the “.1%”) more, with higher progressive tax rates on all forms of income.
- Federal ownership of all banks
- Increase federal spending on the myriad initiatives that benefit America’s 99.9%
The Ten Steps will grow the economy and narrow the income/wealth/power Gap between the rich and the rest.